Turks as Friends

Turkey’s offer to mediate between the Obama administration and Iran is getting good reviews.

Ezra Klein:

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Ivo Daalder, Susan Rice, and others have for some time been pushing this concept of “strategic leadership,” wherein America begins thinking more about its interests than its preeminence. Part of that means being willing to let allies take a leadership role in the regions where they’re most influential. It’s obvious enough how you do that in, say, Eastern Europe, but less so in the Muslim world. Unless, of course, Turkey is willing to step into a leadership role. And there’s evidence they want to do exactly that.

Patrick Barry:

A bajillion years ago, back when there were Byzantines, they called Istanbul the navel of the world, a metaphor which is at once gross but also useful for understanding Turkey’s traditional role as a node for East-West activity.  For centuries, Turkey has managed to fuse together cultures that to everyone else appared irreconcilable.  Today, for reasons political and economic, cultural and strategic, they seem willing to take on that part again.

A cautionary analogy, however, is the historical fact that Pakistan helped broker the Nixon Administration’s opening to China — to curry favor with both the Americans and Chinese. It didn’t make them a pivot, just a client, and not a particularly reliable one at that.


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